Mental Health Professionals

 

India is the second most populous nation in the world with its total population being a little over 1.3 billion1. About 13.7% of the population, a figure close to 150 million Indians are in need for mental health services2. Given this number, it has been estimated that one in five Indian will experience a mental health condition by the year 20203

Mental disorders have been found to contribute to high levels of disability in India. The prevalence of disorders such as schizophrenia, mood, and neurotic disorders has not only increased but are found to be two to three times higher in urban metros. Substance Use disorders, especially tobacco use and alcohol abuse are highly prevalent and are increasing the economic and psychological burden on families and our society 2.

Considering these figures, the mental health treatment in India has its fair share of challenges. In fact, despite various efforts at the national level, currently a significant deficit in treatment of mental health disorders exists in India. Almost all mental disorders, except epilepsy, are met with a treatment gap of more than 60%2. This deficit is likely due to various factors such as stigma attached to seeking mental health services, difficulty in accessing appropriate care in rural areas, and economic feasibility for accessing services.

A major role in treatment gap is played by the paucity of mental health professionals presently working in India5. According to a recent survey, almost all states in India are facing issues related to availability of mental health professionals. Ideally, the availability of 1 psychiatrist per lakh of population is the required standard to achieve optimum levels of treatment2. However, due to significantly low number of trained psychiatrists, there is a deficit in proper treatment services for majority of the population. For instance, states such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have less than 0.2 psychiatrists per lakh available currently5. While the state of Punjab and West Bengal has approximately 0.6 psychiatrists per lakh5.

These low numbers of professionals, leave the fabric of mental health treatment riddled with increased demand issues. Numerous concerns have been found to be associated with this trend. These include issues in graduate training curriculums for psychiatrists and stigma associated with psychiatry as a discipline, to mention a few3.

Other professionals such as clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers are also lacking significantly in India. The number of clinical psychologists available are significantly low in most states. Statistics indicate that only 0.13 clinical psychologists per lakh are available in states such as Meghalaya, and as low as 0.04 in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu5. The number of psychiatric social workers and psychiatric nurses are not encouraging either. Additional challenges are posed by the fact that most of the mental health professionals available are based in urban areas. Thus, provision of mental health facilities in rural areas has become even more difficult. 

Various national level policies and plans are aiming to meet this deficit and provide hope for better provisions in the near future. However, effective and timely utilization of available resources is urgently required based on recommendations made by various national survey reports2,5.

Reference

References:

1.     Census of India. (2011). Population Enumeration Data (Final Population). Retrieved from: http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011census/population_enumeration.html

2.     National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences. (2016). National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16: Summary. Bangalore, India: Author. Retrieved from: http://www.nimhans.ac.in/sites/default/files/u197/NMHS%20Report%20%28Prevalence%20patterns%20and%20outcomes%29%201.pdf

3.     Dasra (2016). Mind the gap-Bridging the enormous deficit of mental healthcare in India. Mumbai, India: Author. Retrieved from: https://www.dasra.org/cause/bridging-the-enormous-deficit-of-mental-healthcare-in-india

4.     Thirunavukarasu, M. (2011). Closing the treatment gap.  Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 53(3), 199–201.

5.     Murthy, P., Kumar, S., Desai, N. & Teja, B.K. (2016). Report of the technical committee on mental health constituted by the national human rights commission to evaluate mental health services in India. New Delhi, India; National Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from:   http://www.nhrc.nic.in/Documents/Mental_Health_report_vol_I_10_06_2016.pdf.

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